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Friday, May 25, 2012


Below is a letter written by Covington City Commissioner Steve Frank to Stacee Hans of the Kentucky Department of Highways in support of Covington's desired changes for the new design plan proposed for the Brent Spence Bridge project. The commissioner asked that it be published here. Today is the final day to send in your letters of support of Covington's desired changes. Click here for Hans's email address. 
Ms. Stacee Hans
Kentucky Department of Highways
421 Buttermilk Pike
Ft. Mitchell, KY 41017

Ms. Hans;

I am writing in support of Plan “I” with important modifications for the Brent Spence Bridge Improvement. I have been wrestling with this issue for the better part of six years, first as a member of the Board of Advisors of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce where I have served on the Infrastructure and Transportation Committee and most recently as a City Commissioner for the City of Covington Kentucky.

As a member of the Infrastructure Committee of the NKY Chamber, I have been intimately involved with going to Congress and to Frankfort to raise funds for the bridge and for its planning as well as for how the bridge intersects with other regional transportation and infrastructure needs. I have kept myself very current on the bridge selection designs since they were first proposed as well as how those design decisions interact with the EPA descent decree for rain water treatment at Willow Run before being discharged into the Ohio River. We need to come up with a final design so that we can proceed with our efforts to remediate this source of pollution , estimated cost of this project is $700,000,000 such that we do not have to rip it out when the bridge is actually built.

I am also very familiar with the need to do something about the bridge as it is our Police and Firemen from the City of Covingtonwho must risk their lives on the Brent Spence Bridge both rescuing stranded motorists as well as investigating their demise when the all too frequent fatalities occur. We had another recent traffic death on April First. They are now so commonplace that it was hardly even mentioned in the media.

One additional point about the need to add capacity to the Brent Spence Bridge corridor, beyond the obvious need for increased safety of our motorists is to maintain the economic vitality of the nation, The Greater Cincinnati Region, and the Cities that compose the Urban Core on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.

The Brent Spence Bridge carries an amazing share of the interstate freight of the United States whose use and importance will only grow with the advent of the widening of the Panama Canal. At present it is currently carrying twice the traffic it was originally designed to handle. The bridge itself is a choke point for all traffic that arrives at our Gulf of Mexican ports that are carrying traffic to the Midwest and Vice Versa.

Regionally, if the Brent Spence Bridge does not have capacity added; our Regional Planning Group OKI has estimated that the time required to travel between our downtown office area and the Greater Cincinnati Airport will more than double within a few years. Without the addition of additional traffic capacity, our downtown area will become a less and less attractive place for major employers to do business.

For all the benefits the construction of a new span to add capacity to the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor would do; one of the present design options, Plan “E” would be catastrophic for the cities of the Urban Core on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River. Plan “E”, would take South Bound local traffic along the upper deck of the new span. That is so high that federal guidelines as to the slope of an exit from an interstate Highway would land the first exit into Kentucky at Ninth Street / 12’th Street - MLK and require a loop back to Covington’s Central Business District at Fourth and Fifth Street by traversing a phalanx of stop signs and stop lights. Human nature dictates that we would lose a substantial amount of business as people will not put themselves through such rigors.

I am writing in support of Plan “I” with Important Modifications that would bring South Bound local traffic across the lower deck of the new span. The lower deck is low enough that Covington can maintain direct access for our businesses by maintaining direct access to our Fourth and Fifth Street Central Business District.

Maintaining direct access to the Interstate system at Fourth and Fifth Street are also vitally critical to our neighboring cities of Ludlow and Newport who have also written to you in support of Plan “I” with important modifications. Ludlow and West Covington would be completely cut off from access to the Interstate system because KY Route 8 will no longer be a feasible entrance to the Brent Spence Bridge. KY Route 8 also serves as an important traffic safety valve when traveling to or from the Greater Cincinnati Airport when there are traffic jams or accidents on the Interstate system. Our sister city of Newport also depends on having a second means of entrance and egress to the Interstate system besides the Big Mac Bridge across I-471. This reliance will only grow as the anticipated launch of the Ovation Project at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking River inNewport takes shape. Yes having additional North / South access will help with an expanded KY Route 9 down the East side of the Licking River; but not for traffic that wants to go north from the Ovation Project. If you combine that with what is envisioned at the DCI project at Manhattan Harbor in Dayton KY, we will need all of the access to the Interstate System near the River Front as we can muster! KY Route 8 in the Urban Core of Campbell County is already overstressed.

As I stated before, I am speaking in favor of Plan “I” with Important Modifications. There are both important political as well as economic reasons for these modifications that ought to enter into the calculus of the ultimate bridge Design. First without the Important Modifications that the City of Covington is requesting, I cannot support the building of any new span across the Ohio River and will do all in my power to stop or delay such a span despite its many other benefits. I am an elected official who represents the interests of the 40,000 citizens of Covington Kentucky and it is my sworn duty to defend their interests. Yes an Interstate System is by definition a system that benefits many people whose interests may far outweigh the practical concerns of one parochial interest. That said, I believe that it is in the interests of all concerned to listen to Covington’s request for Modifications to Plan “I”.

In terms of political calculus, despite whatever plans that may be drawn, a local match will be needed to make this bridge a reality. You can either have an ally or foe with much sway in terms of making this bridge a reality. Beyond the immediate business community in Covington, We now have in support of Covington’s Request for Important Modifications: U.S. Senators Kentucky’s Senators McConnell, Paul and Ohio’s Senator Brown; U.S. Congressmen Davis, Chabot, Schmidt, and Guthrie; Kenton County Judge Executive Arlinghaus; Campbell County Judge Executive Pendry; Boone County Judge Executive Moore; Cincinnati City Mayor Mark Mallory; Newport City Mayor Peluso; Taylor Mill City Mayor Bell; Ludlow City Mayor Wynn; the Northern Kentucky Mayor’s Group; The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; The Northern Kentucky Area Development District; Tri-ed; Southbank Partners; Vision 2015; Covington and Latonia Business Councils; and various other educational and cultural institutions too numerous to mention here as well as 100’s of concerned citizens who showed up at the Northern KY Convention Center, Covington City Hall; and who wrote in their opinions to you.

Our First requested modification is for a collector distributor exit for North Bound local traffic such that travelers can exit at Fifth Street without being impaired by traffic signals such as we have today. This is absolutely vital to the continuing economic vitality of Covington’s Fourth and Fifth Street Central Business District. We also wish to maintain an exit designed specifically for our 12’Th Street – MLK exit traffic to continue the vitality of St. Elizabeth Hospital and the economic transformation along this corridor. At some point 12’Th Street – MLK should be continued as a four lane road all the way to Newport to connect into the enlarged KY Route 9 to act as a second east west corridor for the growth envisioned by the Ovation project in Newport.

Our Second request which was raised by some concerns now alleviated by a recent letter from Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory; is to have the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge tied directly into the Interstate System as an entrance / exit as is currently in the design of Plan “I”. We need this additional method of moving traffic onto the interstate system to make viable the ground that the Internal Revenue Service is currently situated on when they go within the next several years to an office tower rather than the multi acre campus design that they presently occupy. Covington envisions our own Riverfront Commons Park / Office and Living Complex at this site similar to what is occurring at the Banks Project in Cincinnati. Cincinnati no longer objects.

Our Third request is for a second chance exit from the through bridge into Covington at Twelfth Street – MLK. Most non local travelers who come to stay in Covington for lodging and meals do so after taking a visual cue from seeing the Ohio River. As is presently designed, the only local access to Covington requires a decision to be made back at Ezzard Charles Boulevard near the Cincinnati Museum Center, far out of sight from indicating that there may be something of interest in Covington for through travelers. If one fails to take heed that their only option for a Covington exit is back at Ezzard Charles, the first option they have to return to Covington will be at Kyle’s Lane or failing that Dixie Highway in Fort Mitchell. Even if only a fraction of the traffic that missed the option for a Covington exit decides to return to Covington; the Kyle’s Lane exit in particular is incapable of handling the additional traffic as it would require two left turns against much traffic via stop lights. There would be considerable traffic back up at the top of “Death Hill” and would severely compromise traffic who would enter or exit neighborhoods in Park Hills, Ft. Mitchell, Ft. Wright, and Covington neighborhoods such as Monte Casino, Peaselburgh, and Wallace Woods who have already found themselves cut off from convenient access to the interstate system with the removal of the Jefferson Avenue exit some years ago. I would also point out that having a second chance exit at Twelfth Street – MLK is vital to the ability of our rescue squads to save lives if there is an accident on the though bridge. Who would be in a position to come down from Kyle’s Lane to perform vital rescues quickly? No one…but St. Elizabeth Hospital and Covington Fire department can be of timely service if they had access to the through bridge at Twelfth Street – MLK.

There was also some mention in the paper that the addition of a second chance exit would contravene policy to preserve historic property. We have checked with and you now have in your possession a letter attesting to the fact that those particular affected properties are not truly historical by said definitions.

In addition; either designs of Plan “E” or Plan “I” will eliminate Covington’s immediate access point to our largest green space,Devou Park; by eliminating the access to the park at Lewis Street from our Pike Street – Dixie Highway (US 25). This will also cut off ready access to the Covington neighborhoods of Lewisburg and Kenton Hills as well as a neighboring City of Park Hills.Devou Park is the signature vantage point of the Greater Cincinnati area, the largest green space in Northern Kentucky, hosts the closest public golf course to downtown Cincinnati, and is home to the Berringer – Crawford Museum, Concert Bowl, and the incomparable Drees Pavilion whose economic success sustains the maintenance of Devou Park. We need additional access to Devou Park at Montague such that it can become a two lane road at Pike Street – Dixie Highway (US 25).

The last request is that there will also be a lot of property that is not taken but whose use will be severely impaired due to increased road noise or other forms of losses of use. Please be fair in compensating local homeowners whose property values will be affected and please be mindful in trying to engineer in sound mitigation barriers where suitable.


Steven L. Frank CFP
Covington City Commissioner
Board Member, Northern Kentucky Area Development District
Board of Advisors, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo

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